This paper analyzes the changes in Saudi employment and unemployment between 2009 and 2018 and argues that a supply-demand skill mismatch exacerbated by insufficient job creation, and prevalent Saudi preferences and beliefs about employment underpin the high unemployment problem that coexists with low Saudi employment in the private sector in the country.
The Quest for Increased Saudization: Labor Market Outcomes and the Shadow Price of Workforce Nationalization Policies.Abstract, 2021.
Few countries have embraced active labor market policies to the same extent as Saudi Arabia. In the aftermath of the Arab Spring, the imperative of increasing Saudi employment became paramount. The country faced one of the highest youth unemployment rates in the world while over 80 percent of its private sector consisted of foreign labor. Since 2011, a wave of employment nationalization efforts has been mainly implemented through a comprehensive and strictly enforced industry and firm specific quota system known as Nitaqat. This paper assesses the employment gains as well as the costs and unintended consequences resulting from Nitaqat and related policies between 2011 and 2017. We find that while job nationalization policies generated significant initial gains in Saudi employment and labor force participation, the effects were heterogeneous across workers, firms and sectors. Moreover, our analysis suggests that the resulting unintended consequences far outweighed the benefits over time generating a less cost-effective and productivity inhibiting labor market composition.
Understanding Saudi Private Sector Employment and Unemployment.Abstract, 2021.
Labor Market Nationalization Policies and Firm Outcomes: Evidence from Saudi Arabia.Abstract, 2020.
Saudi Arabia is home to the world’s third largest migrant population. Under mounting pressure to increase the private sector employment of Saudis during the last decade, a series of nationalization policies on the labor force have been imposed since late 2011. In this paper, we study how the first nationalization policy, Nitaqat, affected the overall labor market and non-oil firms in the private sector, especially exporting firms. Our rich and novel data allow us to assess the effect of the policy on a wide set of outcomes: employment decisions by composition and size, the output and productivity of exporting firms, labor costs, and exit from the market. Using a difference-in-difference analysis, we compare the 2011 to 2012 change in outcomes between firms above and firms below the threshold required for the minimum share of Saudi workers in a firm. Our results suggest that the policy succeeded in encouraging firms to increase the share of Saudis in private firms. It also increased the share of Saudi women in the workforce, suggesting that the policy had a positive effect on increasing female labor force participation. However, these gains came at a very high cost to firms: our findings suggest that the policy led to a reduced firm size, reduced productivity and output of exporting firms, increased wage bill, increased share of low-skilled Saudi workers, and higher firm exit rates.